School outbreak revives mandatory vaccines for P.E.I. teachers discussion

Prince Edward Islanders should know this week whether the province will change its policy on vaccinations for teachers and staff at the Island’s schools.

‘Today they will be discussed’

Lineups were long at the Charlottetown COVID-19 testing clinic Monday, with hours-long waits expected. (Stephanie Kelly/CBC)

Prince Edward Islanders should know this week whether the province will change its policy on vaccinations for teachers and staff at the Island's schools.

Vaccinations for COVID-19 are now voluntary for school staff, but the question has been raised again following the first outbreak of the disease at a P.E.I. school. The outbreak was announced Sunday, and led to the closure of schools in the Charlottetown area.

"Today they will be discussed. It will be one of our first items for discussion. So any decision on vaccination or testing policies will be made in conjunction with the Chief Public Health Office," Education Minister Natalie Jameson told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.

"We've committed that we will update the public on Wednesday if not sooner."

'Well positioned'

Jameson said the vaccination rates for educators were shared with the chief public health office on Friday, but she did not share them on Island Morning.

"We have the largest uptake on vaccinations across the country," she said.

The Department of Education has been taking its guidelines from the Chief Public Health Office, says Education Minister Natalie Jameson. (Rob LeClair/CBC News)

"We are well positioned here on Prince Edward Island."

Jameson said 83 per cent of Islanders are fully vaccinated. But Cormier noted for families with children in school those rates would be lower: 70 per cent for those in their 20s and 75 per cent for those in their 30s. He pressed Jameson on why, when schools opened last week, they were not on a higher alert, rather than ramping up the state of alert this week following an incident.

Schools across the province have moved to an elevated risk level, with more public health measures that include enhanced cleaning, cohorting in grades K to 6 and more stringent masking in junior high and high school.

"We have been taking all of our guidelines from the Chief Public Health Office. We're in constant communication on a daily basis and, certainly, we've proven this over the last weekend, how quickly we can react," said Jameson.

"We rolled out the back-to-school plan knowing that if something happened it could be adjusted very quickly. That's exactly why we're moving to enhanced measures. And we will be staying on top of this situation."

West Royalty Elementary School will be closed for a minimum of one week, and is moving to online learning Tuesday. Other schools in the Charlottetown area will be closed until Thursday, but will not move online in the meantime.

No timeline has been set for the lifting of the elevated risk level for all Island schools.

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With files from Island Morning


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